Fire Away: Spec Ops, Far Cry 3 Writers On Criticizing FPS

The shooters! They’ve become self-aware! Now they’re in the vents, skittering around menacingly and writing lengthy commentaries on why the very mechanics that make them tick might just be hyper problematic for, you know, society. Two games, especially, have claimed the forefront of this movement and have succeeded to – erm, depending on whom you talk to – varying degrees. If nothing else, however, Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3 should be applauded for aiming right down the sights at a very important topic. Thing is, they furrowed their proverbial brows at shooters in extremely different fashions – Spec Ops by charting a slow descent into bodycount-borne madness, and Far Cry by “straight-faced” (and/or frustratingly obtuse) satire. So, during GDC, I brought their respective writers, Walt Williams and Jeffrey Yohalem, together for a wide-ranging chat about, well, everything. In part one, we talk the industry’s emotional disconnect from the realities of shooting, how to critique violence without accidentally glorifying it in the process, getting these critiques past publishers, and tons more. Oh, and of course, beware of SPOILERS.

RPS: First off, let’s start with the basics. In taking aim at shooters and shooter culture, where did both of you begin? What was the genesis of your story?

Yohalem: The whole thing was inspired by this idea of, can you make a game that is a warning label about games? Can you do it without being an ironic satire? Because for me, irony is finished, for now. I think the last few years have been about ironic, arm’s-length jokes where you say, “We’re smarter than this thing. We’re making fun of it.” It’s the Family Guy style of humor. I think that what’s happening now – it started with Exit Through The Gift Shop – is this idea of playing with the world itself without blinking.

There’s a problem with my generation, where escapism is becoming systematized.

I had, in college, several experiences with WoW where people that I really admired in the game turned out to have really terrible lives. They were focusing all of their attention on being a good person in the game, while their children were neglected in reality. At one point point someone’s girlfriend came on and basically told us all off in the guild. Her son had touched the stove because his father wasn’t watching the child. He was playing WoW.

When we were pitched a straightforward shooter, I felt the same thing – like there’s a problem with my generation, where escapism is becoming systematized. Especially like Jane McGonigal’s talk at TED about how you can use gamification to manipulate people into doing things. She sees a positive side of it, like, “Oh, this is going to be great for people.” But I also saw all these corporations at that talk with their lists of, “This is how we can get people to do things that they don’t want to do.” I’ve seen people in New Mexico. On Christmas morning they gamble their whole bonus checks away instead of spending Christmas with their kids.

That kind of gamification, to me, is a threat to society. But we work with games because they’re interactive. You can create an experience that allows the player to come to their own conclusions about that. Far Cry was an attempt to say, “Let’s look at these systems and how they make you feel. Then, at the end of the day, you decide whether you like what this has done to your brain.”

Williams: I come from a military family. I spent a very small amount of time in the military before they decided that I was not really for them and vice versa, which was a good call on their part. But I was always close to it. Like, my brother did three tours in Iraq. I have a lot of friends who spent a lot of time in Iraq. My father was in Vietnam. My grandfather was in World War II. Lots of war and fighting, and it’s something that’s affected all of them in various ways.

There’s the level in Modern Warfare where you’re in the plane and everyone’s running from the bombs and machinegunning. We mirrored that in the white phosphorus scene specifically. One of those pilots came and showed us a video – they came to the trainees and showed us what they were doing. There was a part in the video where they were leading a guy. They were using the machinegun to lead him. He was hiding under trucks. You could hear the pilots joking about it on the video. Everyone in the room was laughing. And that seemed very weird to me. I understood that this was someone we were technically at war with, and so the attack was something justified, but the tone and the actions in the attack seemed very off. That a room full of people would find this humorous, something to laugh at.

Admittedly, yes, it’s just a white dot on a black screen. But we were still watching footage of people being killed. This is actual footage of people dying. It’s not funny. That was the moment for me, when I was in the military, where I realized, “I don’t know that this is for me.” Not that I’m anti-military. I’m extremely pro-military. I believe it’s an institution that’s necessary and the people that choose to join it feel a calling. But obviously, it’s just not for me. That’s just always stuck with me.

Originally, it was going to be a straightforward military shooter. That’s how it was pitched by Yager to us. So early in development, we were trying to justify Walker’s actions [in a straightforward way] and basically, he was coming across like a complete madman. “Hey, we are three guys. We are incredibly outnumbered in a terrible situation. Let’s track down this specific large group of people and openly assault them. This is gonna work out great!” That was kind of the point where we started to shift the narrative to be about that. Ultimately we realized that the more and more you have a character being proactive in this very violent situation, particularly in a game where you’re always going to be outnumbered by the enemy – you have to be, because you are simply a player and the enemy has to be big enough to fill the entire expanse of the game – there is a level of insanity.

That was the original point in the production where we realized, “There’s something more to this that we want to do.” From that point, it changed to, ultimately, the white phosphorus scene. We wanted to start taking an angle of, instead of you being a hero doing crazy things, what would this kind of stuff actually do to a person. How it starts to weigh on them. The way I’ve seen it in friends who come back, how it weighs on them.

RPS: Hm. You both started with straightforward shooters, but I think you approached the critique from completely opposite angles. With Walker in Spec Ops, he lost more and more control as he went into this spiral. Jason, meanwhile, got more and more powerful. The game mechanics gave him more control. He became a warrior who, expressed in gameplay terms, had all these awesome items and abilities. How did those gameplay arcs shape the story that you told, and the basis of your message?

Williams: It was very much about looking at the expectations of going into a game versus the reality of what you’re doing. How you see yourself when you’re playing a game versus what you actually are, which is where the whole “The Line” part of it came in. We wanted Walker’s journey to be the same as the player’s. For him, that narrative was a man having a crisis of self. He’s coming into a situation with the best of intentions, believing himself to be a hero. The white phosphorus scene is not a point where Walker is being a villain. It is genuinely well-intentioned. It’s just one of the things that can happen in life, particularly in combat, if things turn out for the worst. He can’t reconcile with that.

So by realizing that we wanted to do that for the player, that gave us to the ability to form things like the white phosphorus scene so that it’s ultimately going to be about him in conflict with himself. And if we wanted all the other metaphors and things, then the game does that for us. It has enemies. You’re fighting American soldiers while being an American soldier. The city’s natural sandstorms are literally stripping everything down to the bone, taking away all the glitz and surface of life and leaving simply what it is, kind of wearing everything down.

The result is what you see happening to Walker at the end, where he’s being torn apart to what is at the base of him, which is, put simply, he is a killer. And his ability to connect with that, and how that causes these people to trust him and follow him – who are even worried about him, but are willing to stick with him because he’s someone they care about – it brings them all down to their destruction.

Yohalem: I also think that, based on your talk, the major difference between our two games, in terms of how we’re delivering the meaning, is we both are delivering meaning through the core gameplay. But your meaning is about violence and what it does to you, so it makes sense that the protagonist would get weaker, because as he realizes that, your ability to keep going is decreased. Then you’re creating more obstacles, which works through the gameplay perfectly.

We wanted Walker’s journey to be the same as the player’s… Put simply, he is a killer.

In Far Cry, it’s about systems. It’s about shooting in a game. The system abstracted, what the system does to your brain. In my case, it’s about developing a frenzy, because it’s about addiction. Addiction culminates in an overdose. The game is based on an overdose structure. In other words, you can have a game where you have more and more obstacles. You can have a game where you have more and more power. I think that’s the difference. We both looked at what the studios were making and said, “Okay, here’s how we can create a meaning that’s deeper.”

RPS: For both of you, when, in the process of developing the systems and mechanics, did your story enter the picture? How much did you have to mold your story around a pre-existing game, versus your story being a key part of the way the game was designed? How open was the rest of the development team to what you were doing?

Williams: They were open. Everyone’s open to ideas. But also everyone’s not open to ideas. It’s a creative process. It’s always a back and forth. You give a little, you get a little. Especially working as a writer, you have to learn to work within the box that you’re given, while at the same time finding ways to do what you want to do with as few resources as possible.

Even though narrative was occurring over the course of this thing, budget constraints and things happened. You lose people, you gain people. You go over budget, you get more money, you get more time. You’re constantly having to juggle your resources. Honestly, I get asked a lot, “How does the improving technology make it easier to be a writer?” It makes it harder to be a writer! It makes it worse! Until you’ve had to write something for a cutscene that’s already been made because the team had to start the cutscene before you even got on the project – “could you make whatever words kind of match what they’re saying already so we don’t have to do too much new animation?” – you don’t understand!

You get this whole thing in the game and you’re like, “Wow, this totally doesn’t work. Can we change this cutscene?” “No, we can’t! That needs more resources and we don’t have them at the moment.” It does make it a little bit harder to write. But the team was definitely willing. They’d actually return my moral choices with extra options.

Yohalem: We were developing this open world shooter. So the question becomes, in every other shooter – or any game in an open world – the way that the game pulls you out of the experience has been ignored or papered over. “We don’t understand how to deal with this, so we’ll just do a traditional narrative and ignore what the game is doing.” So I said, “Okay, let’s solve this problem. Let’s use what the team does best.” If you have an actor who’s great at crying on command, you make sure you have a lot of scenes that have crying on command. You don’t say, “Oh, we’re not going to do that, because I have this other idea in my head.” You listen to what’s going on in the team and then you say, “Okay, these are the directions that are strong. The meaning and the direction and where we want to go has to come from there.”

I knew I wanted to talk about the kind of pain going on in my generation now with autonomy. I was looking for ways to talk about that in the game. Then, when I saw the open world versus a linear shooter, I thought, “Okay, you have friends who are in trouble, but they’re not your friends.” We wanted to move fast at the beginning, because we wanted to open the game up right away. Which, as an open world player, I can completely understand. And so it’s like, okay, fast beginning. We don’t have time to get you into who the characters are. That’s not going to happen. The team didn’t want to do that. So, okay, let’s make a new wave game, which is about [shocking people].

New wave cinema is all about shocking the audience repeatedly out of being hypnotically taken into a film. Whenever Francois Truffaut felt like his audience was too relaxed, he would jolt them by doing something with the camera like cutting part of a scene out. That was the direction we took the game in. You don’t know Jason’s friends, but you want to play in the open world, so let’s talk about that. You go to this place and you can play forever. People are screaming for your help and it doesn’t matter, because it’s not you. It’s a puppet that you’re playing. The puppet has a relationship with these people, but you don’t.

So we highlight the alien-ness of that, rather than trying to paper over it. It becomes this new wave experience where you’re constantly jolted out of the narrative systems. It becomes, for me, a modern narrative, as opposed to an old-fashioned narrative that tries to paper over stuff. I feel like, in Spec Ops, you similarly call attention to what people in other games try to deflect attention away from, which is killing. In this case, I’m directing attention towards the systems. They’re both opening up the ventilation shafts and showing the structure of the building.

Williams: Absolutely. Which, I think, is where we’re at as an industry at this point. I agree 100 percent with what Jeffrey said earlier about how we’ve moved beyond irony. The next obvious step for us is sincerity, being honest about the type of things that we make and being honest about how we’ve allowed ourselves to disconnect from our art and forcing ourselves to connect with it again. Once we start being honest and being critical internally of what we make, that’s how you grow up. You have to be able to look honestly at yourself as a person, see where you make mistakes, how you treat people and things like that, if you ever want to grow as a person. What we have to do now as an industry is look and see where we are strongest, where we are weakest, and what we’re lying to ourselves about.

Yohalem: A friend of mine called it, “Turning the lights on in the whorehouse” [laughs]. Getting down in the mud. Irony allows you to stand above the mud and say, “Oh, look at that mud. I’m not involved in making it. I’m laughing at it.” But in reality, you still are. You’re pointing it out. We’re saying we should look at these things as literal faults. How can we fix it? The first step is admitting those faults are there.

RPS: So how do you call attention to those tropes without glorifying them? I think there’s a fine line to walk there when the game that you have essentially, from a mechanical standpoint, is just like all the ones you’re trying to critique.

Williams: With us, honestly, what we did – and I feel it’s actually a rather easy thing to do, we just tend not to do it – was to be more realistic about the end result of violence. We didn’t want it to be like, after you kill everyone and everyone drops dead, cutscene, jump to the next zone, that’s it. “Now that everyone’s dead, hooray, we can progress!” We wanted to keep players in the area longer. Keep them around the consequences. Force them to walk through and see the consequences of their actions, and also learn more about the people who were in the world and what they’d been going through. Using the moral choices to contextualize them. Slowing it down so you were interacting more with them more on a one-on-one basis. Showing the consequences of violence, for us, is the easiest thing.

Yohalem: We were actually talking about Inglorious Basterds before you showed up. We were talking about how, if you look at the aftermath of the Holocaust, we can become acclimated to that amount of killing and death. The concentration camps didn’t have stacks of bodies in them, the way that they are in the photographs as the allies came in. They used to function in such a way that the bodies disappeared. The whole system allowed everyone to turn a blind eye to what they were really doing. That’s not an excuse, but if you’ve seen interviews with Nazis, there is that kind of disconnect.

Right now, as an industry, we have disconnected from our central mechanic. We have yet to do a game about what shooting is, about what stabbing is. Both of us were trying to do a game that explores the core of what these mechanics are, because then we have a real medium. The medium is about interacting, about how our actions affect us emotionally. That’s our art. Otherwise this would just be a movie. It would be about watching something or reading something. That’s not games.

I think we haven’t really explored our [language]. The industry keeps wanting more shooting games. It keeps wanting more games that involve sneaking up behind someone and stabbing them. So then I think we both said, “Let’s make a game that explores what that actually means, and how it feels.” But then, once you’ve done that, you can’t really do it again. If we did our jobs, then every other game that’s about that mechanic would feel the same. At that point, people would say, “We want another experience.”

Gaming is a system that’s become unaware of itself. If the first step is awareness, then the question is, do you really want to see that? I think your game very clearly asks that question. “This is what our mechanic is. Do you really want this, again and again and again?”

Williams: I’ll be honest, I was a little worried about the answer. I was worried that the game was going to… You know, you deal with PR. Admittedly Spec Ops was a hard game to sell, because you can’t really sell what it’s actually about.

Yohalem: That’s part of the subtlety. If you’re too outright about it, the company will say, “This is something that we feel uncomfortable putting in stores.”

Williams: Yeah. So I was a bit worried – unfoundedly, it turned out – that PR would try to sell it on the extremeness of the violence or the element of the violence. That would be something that they would use to appeal to people who want that, as a product versus as an experience. We were very lucky that that didn’t happen. Like I said, we have a very good PR department. They’re not so completely off the reservation as to go, “Wow, this is really fucked up! People are going to love it!”

Yohalem: Did you see that commercial for, I think, Call of Duty, that had real people from their work environment shooting? I just stared at my monitor for like two minutes with my mouth open at this commercial. Where it had the secretary firing a gun? We are absolutely disconnected with the concept of what this means.

If [people from violent places like Africa] made shooters, how different from ours would they be?

Williams: I don’t know that it so much has to do with us being part of this gun culture or anything like that. It’s simply that we have made the act of killing and shooting so fun, but we’ve also taken the importance out of it by piling so much of it in. You don’t ever have to think about the concept of pulling a trigger, because even if you run out of bullets, we’re going to give you so many more bullets! So many more people to shoot! In fact, even if all the people in the game aren’t enough, we’re gonna give you Horde mode! You can kill people until you can’t kill them anymore!

Yohalem: We’ll give you resurrected zombies and you can shoot those.

Williams: We’ve turned killing into such an all-or-nothing thing. With Spec Ops, we wanted there to be a very serious aspect of survival horror to it. Ultimately, I don’t think that, in the gameplay department, we succeeded at all. It’s very much a generic shooter. That’s what it needed to be for the overall story to work.

Yohalem: The better that gets, the more your story works. It’s the acting thing. You support your actor’s great mechanic.

Williams: But I do think a shooter built with real survival horror mechanics at its core – the lack of ammo, having to think about whether I want to use this bullet if there’s another option – and not set against zombies or zombie dogs or something, but real people in real combat situations, or just a real-life dangerous kind of situation, would go a long way towards us understanding a bit more about the act of shooting.

I was talking to some French journalists yesterday, and they brought up an interesting point that I’d never thought about, about the emerging game development communities around the world and what I thought it was going to be like when, say, people from Africa or other parts of the world where they have lived under violence and the effects of violence their whole lives, would begin to make games. If they made shooters, how different from our shooters would they be? I had not thought about that, and I think that also is going to be a big turning point. Violence in western games is very much about power and addiction and going further and further. That’s because we haven’t grown up with it at all. We’ve grown up seeing it on TV. We’ve grown up with stories. We’re totally removed from it. That’s why, to me, it’s a gameplay loop.

Yohalem: You’re approaching that from this incredible life experience, too, where you’ve actually been exposed to violence. I haven’t. I’m writing about this gameplay loop and how that messes with your brain chemistry. You’re talking about actual combat. I think these are two sides of the same issue. It’s pretty interesting. I would love to play a game where you kill 10 people. Each one means something, and that’s it. Like, when I fire a gun, no bullets. And if I do that, it’s one of the climaxes in the game, because it means something.

Check back in the coming days for parts two and three of this massive discussion, in which we continue to dissect pretty much every conceivable thing relevant to shooters, their place in modern culture, and why we should maybe be feeling a bit nauseated by that. Highlights include: questioning if we even need authors and meaning in virtual worlds, arguing about Far Cry 3’s approach to satire, tackling how to write a personal story when you’re working with “someone else’s millions of dollars,” and why BioShock Infinite – of all things – might be the successor to what Williams and Yohalem have attempted to set in motion.


  1. bigwasps says:

    There was already a shooter this gen that did everything Spec Ops and Far Cry 3 did, with much more subtlety and fewer thematic contrivances. It was called Kane & Lynch 2, and nobody played it.

    • CmdrCrunchy says:

      That might be because Kane & Lynch 2 deservedly has the reputation of being about as good as DNF and A:CM. Which isnt very good.

      • Sine says:

        pray tell, what might those abbreviations mean?

        • Shooop says:

          DNF: Duke Nukem Forever
          A:CM: Aliens: Colonial Marines

          • Sine says:

            Thank you, thank you! …Don’t think I’ll be playing K&L2 then.

          • meijianqian says:

            I like the buttermilk biscuit part…..

          • daniyaalseeq says:

            until I looked at the bank draft 4 $4151, I didnt believe that my mother in law was like they say trully making money in their spare time from their laptop.. there aunts neighbour has done this 4 only 14 months and just cleared the depts on there mini mansion and got a new Renault 5. go to,, link to

      • Smion says:

        Really? I thought gameplaywise it was just very, very bland but competent.
        I think the problem most people had with it is that it wasn’t very fun (the story never stopped getting grimmer, everyone involved was kind of an asshole, there were very little explodey setpieces and even if you found one, then chances were you couldn’t tell what’s going on because of the fuck ugly graphics (deliberate but still crappy)

      • bigwasps says:

        It’s not as bad as DNF (haven’t tried Aliens), but sure, it’s not the most fun shooter around. There’s the double-bind, though: people listen to Spec Ops saying “murder isn’t fun” only after it’s made murder thoroughly fun. K&L2 also says “murder isn’t fun”, but it doesn’t count because… its murder gameplay isn’t fun enough. So only the themes are just for the cutscenes, right?

        I dunno if K&L2’s clunky combat was 100% intentional, but its dull repetitiveness, its lack of set-pieces, its repellent characters, its hilariously abrupt ending, its incongruous Asian pop soundtrack; all that stuff all certainly was, and makes the anti-violence statement a lot more powerfully because it leaves you alone with it. Spec Ops might try berating you in the loading screens but it also gives you the epiphany, it allows you to distance yourself from the events by doing the thinking for you.

        Another game that did it better than Spec Ops and FC3: SWAT 4.

        Oh, and one more: Gears of War. Yeah, you heard me.

        • kwyjibo says:

          Kane and Lynch 2 never puts an anti-violence theme across at all.

          I never played the first one, but it seems to do more with the story – link to

          • Riley Lungmus says:

            Absolutely it gets across this anti-violence sentiment. The whole thing about both Kane and Lynch is that they’re the bad guys, and look at them for it! They suffer these injustices due to other men of violence based on their own decisions in life.

            In a way, they deserve what they get.

            Kane and Lynch offers a deterring example, “Don’t be like them, you’ll suffer.”

        • Spoon Of Doom says:

          Gears of War? How is that?

          Not trying to attack you, I mean it as a genuine question. I don’t see the game that way, but I love seeing things from a new perspective.

          • bigwasps says:

            Well, I’m maybe reaching a little with Gears, but its definitely another game that has a much more sophisticated treatment of violence than journos and many players notice, purely because they’re looking harder at the PR around the game than the game itself.

            The entire theme underlying everything in Gears, from the intro to Gears 1 to the ending of Gears 3, is that the humans are as bad as the Locust. The characters are given depth and backstories but never change, they’re never shown to be enriched or educated by horrific violence in the way, say, Lara is the new Tomb Raider. Even once they learn all about the war and the Locust at the end of Gears 3, the characters directly refuse the potential epiphany. The gameplay complements this by being so viscerally satisfying, with all the executions and chainsawing and whatnot. The gameplay and the fiction combine to express the same theme; that brutality is something deep-seated and inalienable in mankind, rewarding in itself. Hotline Miami does a similar kind of thing.

            I bring them up to show that there already games that are tremendously self-aware about what they’re doing with violence, that are built from the ground up to express these things, that aren’t just AAA genre exercises that deploy some opposite-style cutscenes to excuse themselves; but that they’re missed or ignored – often by media outlets who are supposed to be seeing this stuff – because they don’t look smart, because they don’t grab the player by the lapels and scream “Are you feeling terrible yet?!”

          • kwyjibo says:

            Acknowledging the dark violent centre of humanity is not being anti-violence.

            I’d say Hotline Miami was more a celebration of it, and subversive in how overt it was. I think it would have picked up even more press had Sandy Hook not happened. Instead we ended up pointing to games where you can hold hands in the desert. Wow! Games aren’t so bad after all, they’re telling us about peace and love and all that trite shit that we can read about in the Guardian.

            Do you like hurting people? We all like hurting people.

        • The Random One says:

          A game that’s about killing hundreds of people, but your character is kind of an asshole and the game is not very fun but it’s not meant to because being a murderous asshole isn’t fun?

          That is a very curious way to mispell Far Cry 2.

        • drewski says:

          There really wasn’t very much that was “thoroughly fun” about Spec Ops.

      • bhlaab says:

        Yeah and spec ops is a great game (NOTE: it is actually terrible)

      • bongosabbath says:

        I thought it was excellent. I have no idea what it’s been so universally hated on. The multiplayer was fantastic, too.

    • bob. says:

      Its gameplay was mediocre at best, though. At least I didn’t really enjoy it.

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      No, that game was awful.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Kane and Lynch 2 did not do this.

      Kane and Lynch 2 was an exercise in style, I liked it for it. But let’s not pretend that assaulting a skyscraper from a helicopter had anything remotely intelligent to say.

    • povu says:

      It must’ve been way too subtle, because I’ve never heard anyone mention this before. Usually it’s just mentioned as a bad game.

      • Jay says:

        It’s been brought up more than a few times before. There was an excellent piece on it somewhere that I’m entirely blanking on at the moment, argh.

        My favourite touch was the way it pixellated out headshots, which is about as non-subtle a statement on game violence as you can get.

          • Low Life says:

            That article makes the game sound quite interesting. I wonder if I could stomach the gameplay..

          • Jay says:

            I’d say give it a try if you can track it down really cheap. It’s not a great game, but then I wouldn’t say it’s any worse than Spec Ops either. It’s certainly an interesting one.

          • DXN says:

            Yes. That’s actually one of my favorite ever videogame articles because it encapsulates so perfectly everything that made the game appeal to me, despite its flaws, but that I’d never really been able to articulate. I whip it out pretty much every time this discussion comes up. :P

    • BreadBitten says:

      I’ll toss in Max Payne 3 in there as well. There’s a stark contrast between the game’s cliched, and often comical, story and the game’s frighteningly detailed bullet physics. Only a madman would think those end kill cams “looked cool”.

      • dangerlift says:


        Agreed, kill-cam in MP3 much more effective than anything present in Spec Ops. Also became deeply divided throughout the cemetery levels of the game. “You killed my boy.” Spent a good hour or so talking about that scene with mates at the pub.

      • HadToLogin says:

        Guess that means whole world is mad. As far as I can tell, most people were jerking off about how cool it is to dive, shoot in slow motion, and then suddenly camera jumps to last bad dude and slowly spins around while barrage of bullets fly around him.

    • shagohad says:

      I think dayz has a good grasp of this, maybe not any more becuase its all got a bit silly and muderous but its one of the few games where I have considered, felt bad, and held back from killing people. Also a game where you remeber a good deal of the people you killed and how it happened. A great game really

      • DXN says:

        Absolutely, especially when it just came out and people were actually playing it in a way that made the most of the unique mechanics and atmosphere – as a survival horror sandbox, where the persistence of your character gave your virtual ‘life’ extra weight and importance.

        When people started running around killing people just because hey, it’s a videogame and that’s what you do, and hacking became rife and the zombies were nerfed it just became deathmatch on a very empty map and with clunky gameplay. I should look up a good whitelist server some time, see if I can get that feeling back…

    • Bhazor says:

      If thats true then The Room is a brilliantly subtle black comedy.

    • Nogo says:

      FC3 and Spec Ops were about consequences of violence whereas Dog Days just has an ugly lot of it.

      • bhlaab says:

        Far Cry 3 and Spec Ops were standard shooters that some writer put a post-it note reading “MEANING” on after the fact

    • DrGonzo says:

      I agree. I don’t know why Kane and Lynch gets such a bad rep, it’s a decent shooter, with incredible style. It’s aiming for a Michael Mann take on violence, it falls pretty short. But it’s still good. A few moments stand out, the incredibly abrupt ending to the second game is one, and I for one loved it.

    • kregg says:

      I actually punched a few (4 hours) into Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days (K&L2) (still haven’t finished it) and I thought it was absolutely atrocious.

      I get that these bad guys are going down a road of failure, and I get that they do so because they are bad men. Similar to Spec Ops (SO), similar to Far Cry 3 (FC3). What makes me go “nuh uh” to the idea that you can place K&L2 besides FC3 and SO is that I can’t sympathise with the player I’m playing.

      I can sympathise with Jason Brody’s adventure into madness as if I was put into his shoes, I can imagine myself doing the same thing. FC3 plays on that.

      With SO, it actually gives you choice, but you have to think outside the box to do what you want to do, and not what the game tells you to do. (Spoilers, but there was a part in the game you get the option to shoot the crowd. The game points the crosshair at the crowd, but if you are clever, unlike me, you can shoot up in the air to scare the crowd away).

      With K&L2, I can’t understand why Kane always chooses the difficult path, even with Lynch sitting right there telling him “You know, if we do X, we are going to have a bad time” and Kane just stubbornly going ahead with the idea anyway. It’s not like the game tries to encourage you to stop and put down the game and walk away (that would’ve been smart on K&L2), nope it carries on with it’s stupid story.

      If K&L2 had even the slightest sort of awareness of trying to show the player that violence in a game shouldn’t be taken so lightly, then I’d happily root for K&L2 as a hidden gem. But from what I played, it just seemed focussed on telling this stupid gritty story and trying to be all dark and edgy yet completely missing that special ingredient that would’ve made the game far more compelling to play despite its flaws.

      • DXN says:

        To me, the special ingredient is exactly the fact that you can’t sympathise with Kane and Lynch. This is appropriate, because it should be impossible to sympathise with someone who personally kills hundreds or thousands of people to achieve their goals. Characters like Kane and Lynch – horrible, unrepentant, vicious people – are the only sort of characters that truly fit into place in the spectacle of megaviolence that is a modern shooter.

        It also doesn’t make even the slightest attempt to give the characters goals that might “justify” that much violence, even if it could be justified and/or the characters were repentant. This is because that idea, of the just fight, is so barely-tenable, and so dangerous, and yet so often held up as real, unimpeachable, even as being a ‘deeper truth’ than our immediate ethical reactions. This is another way that K&L2 (I can’t speak for K&L 1), is uniquely honest and frank about its nature.

        The ‘hyperreal‘ style, and the way they draw attention to the viewer/player with the shakycam, addresses another arguably dishonest aspect of standard shooters: the unreal, fantastic, glamourized nature of the world they give you to inhabit. Whether or not your weapons and health packs are spinning in place and there’s numbers everywhere, everything about the structure of most games defies their attempts to be believable, including the way you view them, whether as an internal camera that converts the character into a moving, well-armed fridge, or a floating camera with no existence in the world and stuffed with pretty shaders. Kane and Lynch really tries to make the fundamental experience of playing it seem like something that could concievably map onto the real world, in terms of how you perceive and experience it, even if the events it portrays are (knowingly) absurd.

        And to me, the reason Kane and Lynch can get away with this, with saying: “look at this absurd violence I’m giving you. You should be thinking about why this horrible experience is so palatable and desirable when you just gloss it with a lick of charisma and videogamey abstraction,” is because it does all the work I just described to earn the right to say that.

        This is why I think Far Cry 3 fails: it doesn’t do that work. Yohalem seems to think that deliberately avoiding doing that work somehow makes his message stronger, but it doesn’t – it just makes it indistinguishable from all the other games that never even think to address the issue.

        Spec Ops is a lot better in this regard. I do think the fact that it clothes itself so entirely in all the standard shooter regalia for so much of its bulk, is a compromise that weakens its message, and is sort of hypocritical. But I can definitely see the argument that its a way to lull the player into a mindset that they can then be violently snapped out of, and besides, it allowed the game to be marketed in a way that let it reach large numbers of people. I think Williams’s more mature and thoughtful attitude and (indirect) experience with violence and warfare put him in a stronger position to approach this than Yohalem’s rather sophomoric, sheltered, grab-bag pop-cultural eagerness.

        But it seems like both of them, even Yohalem, could have done much better if they hadn’t been straightjacketed by the technical and financial realities of big-budget game development.

    • bigwasps says:

      Think bigger, Kregg. You signed up for a game explicitly about killing people, start to finish, and then you’re disappointed when the story is stupid?

      What more choice than K&L2 does Spec Ops give you, outside of the ending? The set-piece with the crowd was alright, much better than the white phos one, but only in those set-pieces does Spec Ops confront the player with the problem of civilians, whereas it’s built into K&L2’s actual gameplay, with civilians milling about in the levels. So what makes a couple of set-pieces and some dramatic cutscenes more legit than actual gameplay?

      Kane always chooses the worst path for the same reason Walker does in Spec Ops: because he’s a stubborn shithead unable to ever admit to his own incompetence or guilt. He’d sooner die than take advice from Lynch. Except Walker somehow gets an epiphany to shatter his delusion; he and the player do the same thing over and over and yet somehow a lesson is learned.

      K&L2 does it better because it at least commits to being a shooter game, it crafts a whole that makes sense from every angle (well, not every angle — there’s no attempt to work the regen health, huge bodycount, etc. into the fiction in the way, say, Halo does). It trusts the player to be able to understand that what it presents means something.

      If anything games like Spec Ops, and recently Bioshock Infinite, by comparison, draw the player further away from the truth of what a violent video game is; playing like it’s alright to indulge oneself in pretend killing because there’s a lesson to be learned at the end, but not one that’ll ever change the gameplay or affect your fun. I bet the next gen’s gonna be packed with shit like this.

      If Spec Ops was to commit wholly to the things it pretends to be about maybe the ending would only be 1/3 of the game, with the second 2/3 being you controlling Walker struggling to return to civilian life and killing nobody and starting at the walls in an empty room. Sounds stupid? Doesn’t sound fun? If so then, no, in spite of it all you’re not ready to learn anything, and Spec Ops’ cutscenes were the textbook you hide the comic in.

      • kregg says:

        I have to say, for the most part, you are 100% right with the points you made (I’ve played K&L2 more recently, I played SO a while back), but there is something I entirely disagree with you:

        If anything games like Spec Ops, and recently Bioshock Infinite, by comparison, draw the player further away from the truth of what a violent video game is; playing like it’s alright to indulge oneself in pretend killing because there’s a lesson to be learned at the end, but not one that’ll ever change the gameplay or affect your fun. I bet the next gen’s gonna be packed with shit like this.

        This is something I disagree with entirely. After I played Spec Ops, I couldn’t play most of my videogame collection on Steam for like a week. Even my beloved TF2 game got the shaft as I felt quite sick playing a violent video game thinking “What if this wasn’t a game? Would my total amount of kills be acceptable? Am I some sort of sick minded person for enjoying shooting someone? I didn’t mean it I swear!” And I know I’m not the only one who genuinely felt that way.

        To be honest, I’m frustrated by my inability to put into words my hate for K&L2. I guess it’s because for SO I thought it was going to be an average crappy COD clone, but halfway I knew it wasn’t quite the COD clone and I was getting all sorts of mixed signals from the game and my gaming senses. I knew SO was leading up to something but I didn’t quite understand what it was leading up to until the end where it revealed itself for what it really was. The entirety of the game mechanics and the gameplay felt like it was designed to trick me into going ahead with the game just like any other game, but then it would pull the carpet and all I was left was with piss-poor excuses for my actions.

        Again, I haven’t completed K&L2, but as far as I can remember, I was mowing down a building then I got onto the top of the building before I got sick. Not sick from the amount of people I killed – I couldn’t have been happier killing the bloody sods. I was sick from the nausea I got from the shaking camera (I turned it off about 1 hour before I stopped playing and I still was feeling queasy). When I found out Kane had shot the daughter of some gang member, I didn’t think “Oh god I feel terrible”, I thought “Oh bollocks, this means I have to fight more enemies, right?”

        I want to believe everything that you are telling me about K&L2 being better than SO. It definitely fits the bill on closer inspection and it makes me want to play the game *so* much more. My personal bother with the game is that I feel like K&L2 was a better SO by accident, and not intentionally by the developers of the game. Maybe it is done in an incredibly subtle way that I didn’t pick up on and maybe I’m being far too dense with the game. But for me at least, a game has to be a bit blunt and least get its point across. Or maybe I actually need to play it to the end to get that punch in the stomach I got from Spec Ops.

      • kwyjibo says:

        What, because Kane and Lynch 2 commits to being a straight shooter all the way through, it’s somehow saying something relevant or new? No.

        If you’re going to commit to being a straight shooter, you need to do it well. It’s cover system is worse than in games in which the cover shooter bit isn’t even the core game. The guns are so inaccurate that the feedback loop is broken.

        What it does well though, are the aesthetics. The grittiness. The culture shock of Now China.

      • bigwasps says:

        Don’t get me wrong, kregg, I think Spec Ops is definitely powerful if you sign up for that COD experience, but it depends on the player expecting that certain something from it to have its effect. If you don’t buy into the shooter fantasy in the first place (or just played it because you heard its reputation), then it’s powerless, it’s just loading screens shouting at you for no reason.

        K&L on the other hand is robust in a way Spec Ops isn’t, because it doesn’t even acknowledge internally that there might be anything to fantasise about. It’s not by accident, you don’t write characters or a campaign like that while just trying to turn a profit. It did suffer from bad marketing; all the ads for it played it up as a big edgy cool-criminals-being-badass thing, which is basically the opposite of what it is. Lots of reviewers balked at stuff like the constant swearing, as if it was supposed to be cool, where the point of the swearing was to show how powerless the characters were.

        Not hating on anybody that likes Spec Ops and doesn’t like K&L. But it is pathetic that sites like RPS, that supposedly exist to highlight quality in games, get mega excited over one while completely failing to notice the other.

        Sure it is, kwyjibo, because very few shooters commit, with their fiction, to being shooters. Even stuff like GTA colours your murdering as kinda heroic. Spec Ops’ tricks you, and it’s a great trick, but a trick nonetheless. K&L just writes the genre for precisely what it always was, and in doing so is both relevant and novel. A game doesn’t need a cutscene where a guy tells you you’re terrible for playing it to make a point, y’know.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Fine, I’ll get around playing K&L 2, even if it means having to deal with poorly designed gameplay :P

          I recently played through Spec Ops and I think you’re too simplifying how it worked (while defending K&L2), it wasn’t just about cutscenes or stereotyped characters, and the final epiphany. The entire environment conveyed a lot of the messages (for the people who took the time to stand and stare), same with the character design (changing over time), some animations and some voice lines.

          Actually, I got much more out of the game from the little details than from the last scene, or the white phosphorus one, or most of the other “set up” scenes. I saw them as the crystallization of what I already understood, a clear signal to all people who might have missed or tried to ignore the subtlety scattered in very minor details all around the game – a message sent not to me, but sent to all the people different from me, a message sent to the entire society and not just myself.

          The white phosphorus scene was exactly that: it was directed to the western culture, the western population, the american population, the american army. And it was a strong, respectful and clear message to them. It wasn’t directed at me. A lot of the messages in SO weren’t directed at me, and once I fully accepted that I fully understood what SO was about.

        • Josh W says:

          But it is pathetic that sites like RPS, that supposedly exist to highlight quality in games, get mega excited over one while completely failing to notice the other.

          Don’t go overboard, there have been some great arguments so far, about what it actually means to make a game that depicts it’s themes with uglyness and criticism. It’s just an oversight.

          Anyway, on your main points, I feel like Kane and Lynch 2 has some of the same failings as far cry 3, but pushes them further:

          There is an extent to which critique can become that thing from horror movies where you just play the same scene but with ominous music. The key point of an insightful criticism, that spec ops does do, is to find points of seperation.

          Instead of creating a sealed world of “doesn’t this suck”, you create openings that show alternatives.

          These are like roads leading out of the game world with invisible walls; when you start embarking down them and suddenly halt, you go “I know we can go further in this direction, we just don’t”.

          These are the kind of things that build kickstarters, the hidden promise of games that push outside of the traps of current tradition, and more than that, they inspire other game designers.

          For example, imagine that thing about scaring people away was actually made into a mechanic in games, suddenly destroying morale meant that you didn’t need to kill anyone. Imagine doing the whole arkham asylum “scare people from the dark” thing, but in order to make the less hardened members of a gang run away and give up their life of crime?

          Of course the moment such alternatives exist, they form their own absurdities and problems, which is why you make more ways out. These easter eggs of secret functionality to avoid moral impasses form a kind of criticism based on the interactive structure of games itself, not based on the “shock reveal”/”sickly depiction” framework of hollywood.

  2. Revolving Ocelot says:

    Will there be more of the lots o’ staring eyes in the next installments? I simply love a good peek into the abyss every now and then.

  3. karry says:

    “This is actual footage of people dying. It’s not funny. That was the moment for me, when I was in the military, where I realized, “I don’t know that this is for me.” Not that I’m anti-military. I’m extremely pro-military.”

    Shizophreny ? Here i thought, oh, good, finally a USian who is not bloodthirsty…but no, he still loves killing people.

    • bob. says:

      I guess he meant it in a way of “someone has to do the job, but I’m not the right one for it”.

    • darkChozo says:

      There’s a difference between supporting military action as justifiable in some circumstances and supporting killing people in general. I doubt that there are many people who think the military is good because it involves killing, it’s more a matter of weighing the positive effect the military can have against the negatives, which among other things involves taking human life.

      Also my inner grammar/psychology nazi is going crazy right now (Sorry!).

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Yes, we’re all a bunch of bloodthirsty savages. Also everyone owns at least 5 cowboy hats and drives a monster truck.

      • darkChozo says:

        My monster truck is actually shaped like a cowboy hat. It’s also wearing one.

      • Oak says:

        We also love being called USians.

        • AndrewC says:

          What’s the origin of ‘Usians’? Where did it start? I’m ignorant and would like some context.

          It reads like one of those deliberate mistakes that are a witless attempt to belittle the subject, like Micro$oft and such, but I would like some facts.

          • darkChozo says:

            I believe the logic is that “American” should refer to anyone in North or South America, not just those from the United States of America. USian is more specific and therefore is a “better” term.

            (For what it’s worth, some languages use names that roughly translate to “unitedstatesians” for those from the US, though whether that should have any impact on English speakers is rather debatable)

          • Riley Lungmus says:

            You get your Big Government noise out of my country

        • Archangel says:

          Yes, it indeed appears to be used exclusively as a witless pejorative; it seems to always punctuate an anti-US comment. When I called it out last time I was duly informed where I could shove it, and that all Americans are self-righteous sociopaths, QED. So I guess that about does it.

          • The Random One says:

            It’s not a pejorative. It just happens that people who find it a bad thing that the US has “appropriated” the demonym of an entire continent also happen to be people who, on average, don’t have a very high opinion of the US and its inhabitants.

            The proper word should obviously be Uniteder. Or maybe Statesian?

          • ArthurBarnhouse says:

            Except that Mexico and many other places are also “United States”. Mexico’s official name is the United Mexican States. Using the same logic, it’s appropriation just as much as shortening it to American. Can’t we reasonably agree that if you want to get into a fight about appropriation, syntax arguements about what to call people from the US is basically the least useful, least important part of it?

          • cpt_freakout says:

            Yeah, the problem is that the name of the country is also the form of its State, unlike most other countries. Mexico’s official name denotes its form of organization, but there’s still the option of just calling it Mexico. I would say it’s an historical thing, the way the US Independence represented a new era for humanity, and the way many a 19th century philosopher agreed with the notion that the American continent, with all its republics and democracies (usually modeled after the US), was the future. The Monroe doctrine spoke originally not of America for the US, but of America for the Americans. I guess somewhere along the way people from the US and Europe just started referring to the US as the paradigmatic sign of the whole continent, and so here we are today! :P Still, it’s not like people don’t understand the difference between America and the American continent… Right?

      • Brun says:

        Clearly we are all uncouth barbarians who scoff at such culturally superior staples as Jaffa cakes.

        • The Random One says:

          “The savage people of these lands follow strange cullinary superstitions, and are unable to comprehend the holy nature of the Jaffa Cake, which is simultaneously cake and biscuit.”

    • drewski says:

      I think a lot of people would say they were pro-military, in that they support those people who risk their health, lives and sanity in the defence of the idea of the nation (rightly or wrongly); whilst also being very anti-killing things.

      I wish humans had no need for “military”, but I still respect those people willing to sacrifice themselves for the idea of community.

    • Josh W says:

      There’s a strange paradox there; people normally take the whole “it’s not for me” thing in the context of “do what you like so long as it’s not hurting people”. You know, it’s not like it matters either way, so I’ll just choose a different sort of thing to involve myself in.

      The thing is that while it might be true that something is not for you, that when you try to go along with it or tolerate it you just get beaten down, or feel a horrible taste in your mouth, (and in that situation you probably should move to a different profession) there does come a question when you should speak out about someone using military advantage to play cat and mouse with someone else’s life.

      Not on a personal taste level, but on a moral level, however uncomfortable that might be to get involved with.

      For Bradley Manning, another person constitutionally unsuited to warfare, he felt that the only moral responce was to reveal the abuses.

      I don’t personally think we should condemn this stuff just when soldiers make horrible statements and are callous about battle, they’re soldiers, thats going to happen, but they have to act with more respect for life, not least for avoiding building hatred in people you are probably trying to make peace with in parallel, or because of the constant dangers of collatoral damage.

  4. waltC says:

    This is an amusing read, as I sincerely doubt that 1 in 10,000 players of these games gives them anywhere near this depth of analysis…;) To most people, computer games are light entertainment that inspire no one to do anything except to play them–when they have time, of course. To the guy and gal upset with WoW game software because the associate and respective husband was ignoring his child in favor of playing the game, the husband is to blame–not the software. I mean, if someone dies in a drunken-driving accident, how many people do you think locate the wreckage of the automobile and then proceed to yell at it? The police do not incarcerate the car, and very properly so.

    I have a distinct allergy which reacts to using computer games as platforms from which to launch all manner of social diatribes, for all manner of deeply subconscious reasons…;) It often seems like everything except the motivations of the authors is discussed, but that’s what begs analysis, if you ask me.

    • Metalfish says:

      Cars are not really designed to cause accidents. WoW was designed to be addictive. Arguably.

      • frightlever says:

        Meh. WoW was designed to be addictive because that’s an ingredient for good MMO design or game design in general. Cars are designed to go fast, while cocooning the driver and passengers from external harm – about the only material concession to not gutting the cyclists and pedestrians that they hit is the removal of hood ornaments. Cars are absolutely inherently dangerous and just as addiction is a consequence of good game design, a car being dangerous is a consequence of good car design.

        These are the acceptable trade-offs that we’ve chosen as a society to accept. See also tobacco, alcohol, fast food and any number of sports.

        • Ztroskotanec says:

          A few cars are designed to be fast. Most cars are designed to be safe, comfortable, and economical.

          I don’t think a game has to be addictive to be a good game, either–there’s plenty of games (FTL, for example) that it’s easy to play a few rounds of and go do something else. WoW is specifically designed to capitalize on player investment and make it difficult for them to not play the game.

    • S Jay says:

      I really think it is not possible to play Spec Ops until the end (or even the white phosphorous thing) and not think about it in more serious terms

      Can’t say about FC3, didn’t play it.

      • liquidsoap89 says:

        Yea I agree with this. Spec Ops really did make me feel bad about what I had done in the game. I think more so than any other shooter I’ve ever played in all honesty.

        Far Cry 3 on the other hand. That game was just fun, and no amount of crazy writer bullshit will make me think it was any deeper than that.

      • bhlaab says:

        I own Spec Ops and I certainly couldn’t finish it to the end fullstop.

    • HiFunTimTebow says:

      Affectations of condescension and generalizations aside, I think you gave too much of yourself away with this comment. See, similar the writers interviewed – who are consciously writing about these themes, who possess not only empathy, but a sense of responsibility – most people in the real world also have a sense of empathy. It is what keeps children from hurting themselves, having parents grounded in similar capabilities; they aren’t addicted or drawn into any given vice – here presented topically relative to gaming as an MMO.

      As to how one such as yourself could alleviate your allergies, might I suggest getting out there once in a while? I hear that’ll clear that right up.

    • P.Funk says:

      So you’re one of those people who thinks that allegory and satire and overall a social conscience in writing any form of socially consumed entertainment/experience is just pretentious nonsense? You don’t like the use of popular media as a platform for social commentary?

      I ask you how else is one supposed to criticize best something than through its own platform? Shooters are absurd and disconnected? Don’t make a shooter! People who play them are dim and don’t really care!

      Most of the human population are drones with no critical brain power who willingly subsume their wills beneath some form of coping mechanism or other. People being dumb and subservient is the oldest story, but they can be gotten to. All I ever heard about Spec Ops was the fact that the story was different and that there’s something there to see.

      I dunno, I run into people all time though who basically have an allergy to social conscience. Its like being outraged about something or just generally critical makes them think you’re being contrary or in bad taste. Its like I hear the sound of a bunch of old guys who lived their 20s through the 1940s complaining about hippies or something.

      What was Ray’s line on Girls… “Maybe what you see as negativity is just critical analysis.”

  5. altum videtur says:

    Isn’t, like, the Far Cry 3 writer the one who’s crazy as shit?
    I’m sort of afraid to read this thing now.

    • Shooop says:

      He’s not crazy, he’s just as full of himself as James Cameron and claims he was making statements and satire where there wasn’t anything but half-assed writing.

      • valentingalea says:

        So true!

      • altum videtur says:

        Oh. Just another writer then.
        (ha! …kill me please. i’m awful.)

      • Ultra Superior says:


        – especially for that James Cameron analogy

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        No, he’s actually crazy I think. Nothing he says is coherent or sensical.

      • Wurstwaffel says:

        Seriously… you people are dicks.

        • Shooop says:


          If your response to people asking if your work was actually satire because they can’t tell is almost you yelling, “You guys just didn’t get it!” then I would consider that an ego problem. Because you’re blaming other people for your inadequate product.

          • Nogo says:

            Yohalem clearly understands how he hoped all the elements would fit together, and maybe it is his fault they weren’t conveyed correctly, but games are a team effort. So you’re being kind of a dick by calling him insane for merely failing to convey his artistic intentions in a clear manner. Williams even discusses how hard this can be in this interview.

            I’m glad he discussed what the game meant to him and what his intentions were regardless of success and calling people names when they offer such honesty isn’t very nice.

          • Shooop says:

            First of all, I never called him insane. You’ve got me confused with someone else. I specifically said he’s not insane actually.

            Secondly, I’m calling him egotistical (hence the comparison to James Cameron). Because that’s exactly what his reaction to people not understanding what he thought was so obvious reeked of. He blamed everyone else for not “getting” his story because it only made sense to him and him alone.

      • P7uen says:

        Yes, I can’t take anything he says seriously because I feel he will say whatever will make him look best at that interview question in that room at that point in time.

        I am not buying what Yohalem is selling.

        Well, I did literally buy what he sold, but you know what I mean. Damn.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      He’s much more coherent in this interview than the other time RPS interviewed him, at least.

    • WrenBoy says:

      That’s part of the subtlety. If you’re too outright about it, the company will say, “This is something that we feel uncomfortable putting in stores.”

      The interview with John was all part of his subtlety I guess.

    • Archangel says:

      Yes, that’s him. His other interview was just icepick-into-brain levels of insane, it’s true. I’m not sure I can even begin to take him seriously as a writer/designer. The Spec Ops guy (and the game) are appropriate to the subject, of course. I’m honestly not sure why Yohalem is even here after the he so manifestly destroyed his credibility here last time.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        *my exact thoughts*

      • darkChozo says:

        Isn’t it a bit strong to completely discount someone’s work based on a single interview? There are plenty of people who are quite brilliant at what they do but can’t explain things for crap. (not that I think he’s a particularly brilliant writer or anything, FC3’s plot was interesting in concept but was executed horribly IMO)

        • WrenBoy says:

          You read the interview, right?

          • darkChozo says:

            Yup, his responses were disorganized at best and he sounded like he was either extremely sleep deprived or genuinely crazy. He seems to be a bit better off here, though there’s still hints of it. Either way, I don’t really see how this means he loses credibility as a writer, unless he writes by dictation and never edits anything, or something like that.

        • Shooop says:

          Personally I consider it extremely damaging to anyone’s credibility as a writer when they appear to be repeatedly yelling, “You just didn’t get it!” at everyone.

          Not that he can’t redeem himself, but I’m certainly going to be more skeptical of anything he does in the future until he realizes the problem with his work wasn’t the audience but the work itself. Johnathan Swift, he is not.

    • The Evil Moose says:

      I actually quite like Yohalem, I get more of a vibe that he has a lot to say but doesn’t know how to say it in a coherent way rather than him being crazy.

  6. golem09 says:

    Player Spec Ops.
    Quit after ten minutes, because I can’t bear pure cover shooters and wannabe soldier smartasses.

    Far Cry 3.
    Played it for 2 hours and love it. Then realized how the missions in this open world work. Quit.

    I have become extremely tired of shooting virtual men in the head. I can bear it if there is some promise, and if there is at least a minor gameplay element distracting me from the fact that I’m playing a fast (or snipery slow) paced point and click adventure with a gameplay / story ratio of 90 / 10. Without puzzles.
    The first game didn’t distract me enough, the second took the one gameplay feature I liked and made it pointless. Good work. I’ll never know how good the writing was.
    But then again, pretty much no one plays or likes games like me, so making a game for me probably would sell 2 copy. Mine and the one I’d get for my cat.

    • Shooop says:

      Watch a playthrough of Spec Ops, it’s definitely worth watching the story unfold. There’s more subtle moments too that occur in the gameplay, but if you can’t stomach the completely generic 3rd person pop-and-shoot gameplay don’t worry about them.

      The story is what makes that game. Yes it’s that good.

    • elgonzo says:

      Argh… because of your point&click adventure analogy now i can’t think of anything else than “Open head with gun”… grrr…

    • frightlever says:

      Why would you buy a game only to stop playing it after ten minutes? I buy a lot of games that I give short shrift to, but they’re generally bought for peanuts in a sale or bundle.

      I played Mercenaries 2 for about two hours and I still feel guilty I didn’t struggle on, and that only cost me £1.99.

      • golem09 says:

        Why would I spend my free time doing things I don’t enjoy?

        • mouton says:

          Because some things, like games and movies, do not have a constant quality over their course and can easily get better/worse? Do you walk out of a cinema because you find the opening 10 minutes dull?

          Of course, you can do it. Perfectly justifiable in our age of attention deficit.

  7. Dervish says:

    The glorification of violence and power has been a big part of art and stories from many cultures that were quite close to those things, so I think it’s a bit naive to say these games stem from a certain removal or distance. Undoubtedly there are cultural factors that have shaped the particular Western model of the action hero, but violent heroes are neither new nor Western.

    • Brun says:

      Indeed. Go read some Greek mythology or epic poetry. Some of those guys make modern “action heroes” look downright tame.

      • altum videtur says:

        God of War is surprisingly restrained compared to the great Greek epics ‘Illiad’ and ‘Odyssey’. And the writers thought Kratos was actually a grimdarker version of classic greek heroes. Oh, the irony.

    • frightlever says:

      Let’s be consistent here.

      I rather enjoyed this interview so far, even if I’m not entirely buying in to it. At least it’s a more measured examination of violence than the recent feminism/sexism/misogyny examinations have been.

      If you want to justify violence in games by saying things were much worse (or better depending on your point of view) in the historical or mythological epics then you’re making a dangerous assumption. You can’t reliably defend something by saying it was much worse in the past. If that was true then sexism, slavery and homophobia were all worse in the past so what’s the problem?

      Except, of course, you see what I just did there, right?

      Violence occupies a curious position in the human psyche. I think in general most people accept that violence is a necessary evil, be it on a personal level to defend yourself or a national level to impose the will of the state to protect its wider interests.

      In the historical epics, just like in most games, the unexamined detail is that both sides generally feel they are justified in using violence. The Nazis were evil from our point of view, but they felt entirely justified running their death camps because they were convinced it was necessary. The US and the majority of the Allied Europeans including the British had a history of running their own death camps if not with quite the same fervour but certainly when it suited them.

      Run a death camp and you’re evil, kill a quarter of a million civilians with atom bombs and you’re a hero. We can justify violence when it suits our purposes, glorify it even, but point the finger at someone else’s violence and call it an atrocity.

      Maybe it’s all an atrocity. Even a necessary evil is still evil, right?

      We already know thongs in games are an atrocity, so is it such a step to say that violence of any sort is as bad as thongs? Or is that a step too far?

      I don’t know. I just don’t know.

  8. aliksy says:

    When playing Spec Ops, I kept expecting a scene where I’d sneak up on guys and shoot them all (because that’s what you do in those games), only to find out they weren’t hostile. But that never happened. I think that could’ve been pretty powerful, because that would be all on the player’s choice. I don’t think there was a way to avoid the phosphorus thing.

    • Highstorm says:

      Indeed, there wasn’t. It was more or less spoiled for me so I recognized what was going to happen when I got to that point. I tried just shooting my way through instead, but the endlessly respawning, one-shot-kill snipers will get you eventually.

    • Wurstwaffel says:

      That’s exactly my problem with the artsy fartsy talk about Spec Ops.
      It tricks you into doing horrible things, but it never tricks you into -wanting- to do horrible things.
      I actually played it before reading up on what the underlying message was supposed to be, and I never felt that the game personally addressed me at all. I just thought the story was entertaining and kind of clever at times and the main character had a nice arc. Still, I felt very much disconnected from the thing, because it’s mostly a linear game.

      The white phosphorus scene only annoyed me. The game made it look like you could get through without using the mortar and then just threw endlessly and instantly respawning snipers at your face until you would begrudgingly comply and use the damn mortar.

  9. Vraptor117 says:

    This is the kind of content for which I come to RPS. Bravo.

    Also, did that one guy just compare how the game industry makes shooters to the Holocaust?

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Yes, that’s Jeffrey Yohalem for you. Ironically he was demonstrating a point about a disconnect. (Oh wait, we’ve moved beyond irony …)

  10. Snargelfargen says:

    The discussion about approaching subject matter in games with honesty is a good one. All too often irony is used as a sugarcoating for a nasty message that really isn’t ironic. The line becomes especially fuzzy when the player is actively participating in the joke, unlike books or film.

    Far Cry 3 is an ugly example of an honest approach though. It’s using some pretty racist tropes, and while the intent may be to create a sort of narrative dissonance, the problematic setting is never addressed directly or discarded for an alternative. Yohalem talks about having the player confront the mechanics of the game, but that’s one step removed from issues like race and gender. There’s no dissonance when it comes to the protagonist’s depiction as a foreign saviour, or the island tribe cliches. Those themes are consistent throughout the entire game. Simply asking the audience to “please consider if this is wrong” is defeated by the game’s message “no, this is totally normal”.

    • Cytrom says:

      I kinda missed the whole ‘far cry 3 is totally racist’ discussions on rps.. can someone fill me in about it in a nutshell? ’cause i didn’t notice any of it while i played the game through. (which probably makes me a terrorist.. or worse)

      Or was it that the natives called the rich-white-kid-turned-rambo by the name of “snowwhite”? That can’t be it though, kids in kindergarten stick more malignant nicknames to each other than that, or are people really that hypersensitive about race, while killing people not based on skin pigmentation is just fun and games (or a satire.. whatever)?

      • Ultra Superior says:

        You’re so 2012

      • Spoon Of Doom says:

        The really tiny nutshell was, I think:
        1) “Magical Negro” trope, in that the natives have some kind of supernatural power (although I’m not convinced there was any actual magic in the game, magically extending tattoos aside, felt more like a combination of drugs and “making him believe in himself”-placebo kind of stuff.)
        2) The white dude has to come to the natives’ rescue and solve their problems, and even makes better use of their magical negro magic even though they really should be experts at that more than him.

        I think those were the main points that were brought up.

        • The Random One says:

          What what, no, the ‘Magical Negro’ trope/cliché is not about black people literally having magic powers, it’s about black characters conveniently having the bit of wisdom, attitude, feeling or, yes, magic powers that will help a white character complete their character arc, while the black character remains flat.

          You can read more about it in this serious and well-pondered website: link to

          In Far Cry 3’s case, the trope refers to how the natives help the white main dude become a RAD WARRIOR through their curiously precise prophecies and hallucinogen-based magic. I understand it got subverted by the end, but by that time you’re through 90% of the game considering yourself to be the shit.

          • Spoon Of Doom says:

            Okay, sorry. I just skimmed over the RPS discussions on this topic, and didn’t remember the exact definition. Thanks for clearing that up, makes a lot more sense now.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Spoon summed it up pretty well. The noble savage stereotype, where another culture is depicted as simplistic and more connected to the earth/magic/etc is really common. Doesn’t sound negative (although google “magical negro” and you will discover that it can be), until you realize that the noble savages are always, always saved by a white, usually male protagonist. The natives are actually helpless, unable to solve their problems without the intervention of a civilized hero who appropriates their cultural symbols for his own purposes.

        It’s really archaic once you think about it, the dynamic is rooted in old-school colonialism. Still appears everywhere though. The movie Avatar is another great example of the White Man swooping into save the helpless natives.

        See also: The Last Samurai, Tintin in Africa, Planet of the Apes

        Edit: Just to make this clear, Far Cry 3 was attempting to riff on the noble savage theme on purpose (as far as I can tell anyways, the interview with Yohalem is super confusing). It failed at communicating anything meaningful about those racist tropes or getting the player to even notice or think about them (like you).

        • Ultra Superior says:

          Planet of the apes. lol

        • elgonzo says:

          I fully agree with what was said of FC3.

          The sad thing about Avatar (and similar cases), that the setup and story had potential (which i personally cannot say at all about FC3): Colonial (human) power with low ethical standards. Caused problems to others (natives). Main character, human, represents that not all is lost in respect to human morals. Goes to clean up the mess his kind created. Disagrees with the shit the other humans made. Redemption! The End.
          Thus far, it is not really an awful “White saviour” story, rather more something parents teach their kids: You should clean up the mess you did. But then it kinda went all down: Oh defected master from evil colonial power, do you want to become new CEO of our tribe and marry lovely daughter of former CEO? sigh…

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            In other interviews Yohalem has mentioned how his game is like Avatar. He didn’t see any problems with that though.

        • Brun says:

          *Spoilers, if anyone cares*

          This basically. Although I got a pretty strong vibe that Citra and (to a much lesser extent) Dennis were actively manipulating Jason (through the “magic” and by encouraging Jason’s power-trip) to their own ends – Citra in order to cement herself as spiritual leader of the Rakayat (and rid the island of Vas and Hoyt) and Dennis in order to win Citra’s favor (although he ultimately fails at this and recognizes as much by the end of the main story). Perhaps it was because I chose *not* to kill Jason’s friends at the end of the game, and that ending does make it feel like he has been manipulated by Citra to some extent (it certainly calls her motivations into question, at the very least).

          I think it was still present, but the above possibility added an interesting twist to it for me. It likely doesn’t “say” anything more meaningful about the issue, but it felt different at least.

  11. <]:^D says:

    “I would love to play a game where you kill 10 people. Each one means something, and that’s it.”

    I realise this isn’t a perfect example, but Shadow of the Collosus (PS2) does that very well.

    • elgonzo says:

      I just want to kill somebody. That will surely mean something to somebody.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      This interview really made it seem like these two aren’t very aware of what other games are out there, or haven’t thought much about them. In their world there is Call of Duty on one hand, and Spec Ops/FC3 on the other. Nothing else.

      In fact I’m not even sure Call of Duty is accurate. It’s like there’s this mythical Violent Videogame that people like these invoke, but it doesn’t actually exist. They try to make their work a reaction to a hypothetical.

      • ArthurBarnhouse says:

        In the current marketplace, FPS is the king of the game types, and everyone wants to be CoD. You can see it the changes that have been made to the last two battlefield games, in the unfortunate Metal of Honor reboot. Faux realisitic military shooters are what make onset right now. CoD makes so much money they have two different series working concurrently so that there almost isn’t a lull between releases.

        Within that context, these guys are trying to say that the most popular content being consumed right now is bad for specific reasons. It’s like a moviemaker trying to make a movie about what is wrong with modern blockbusters. The reaction shouldn’t be “who cares, there are independent films.”

  12. Greggh says:

    I have a problem with those little boxes of text that appear when there are ALL THE WORDS in an interview… how are they called in english again?

  13. SirKicksalot says:

    “I would love to play a game where you kill 10 people. Each one means something, and that’s it. Like, when I fire a gun, no bullets. And if I do that, it’s one of the climaxes in the game, because it means something.”

    I Am Alive, mady by your own company.

    (well, it’s more like 25-30 people)

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      I thought that after the demo, but after playing the full version for a while, I was disappointed. Maybe I didn’t get far enough, but all battle encounters were almost the same. It was kind of a puzzle, with one or two, at most three possible actions you can take to survive the encounter (stab that guy, then shoot the second, force the last one into death at gunpoint or somewhat similar to that). After a while, those fights became tedious for me rather than exciting, and with each encounter it meant less because the ones you had to fight looked and sounded like they could have been the reincarnations of the last group of attackers. I don’t think there was a way to avoid killing them, but maybe I just have a bad memory.

      I loved the atmosphere of the game and was intrigued by the story of a man trying to find his family in a broken world, which was a refreshingly real and believable setup, but ultimately the fights turned me off because they more or less pulled me out of the game. To me, they felt more “gamey” and more like obvious puzzles than the climbing and other stuff.

  14. Ultra Superior says:

    FPS’s are fun and fantasy first, serious commentary on violence is, given the medium which uses violence to provide fun, almost always doomed to fail.

    “Satiric approach” is cheap and overdone to no avail.

    Let’s just hope that videogames make people lazy so much they’ll stop hating others enough to stop supporting wars.

    After that achievement, they can continue being as violently fun as they are (which is not much currently) and more.

    • elgonzo says:

      Why accept less variety in games than, for example, in movies? Why not have it all?
      You have plenty different movies which tackle the topic of violence either as comedy, full-blown action romp, serious drama, or anything in between, and they all coexist.

      You can have blood-thirsty but cool gangster flicks where they are shooting and killing people, beating and killing people, and on and on… You can have comedic action movies like those Hong-Kong flicks, where they beat each other up, laughingly so. And you can have serious movies such as End of Watch, which address the impact and consequences of violence in more seriousness.

      It should be the same in the games market. I think, it already is — except for the “serious category”. But as it seems, we are in the process of getting there, too…

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Yes, I just don’t think a serious commentary on violence is FUN material for FPS. It’s either fun, or not good.

        I absolutely agree otherwise, I think a game, where player is i.e. accused of murder ( like in the beginning of Fahrenheit /Indigo Prophecy ) and must deal with it in some way, could be a serious work AND an interesting thing to play, however I doubt it would work as a FPS…

        • elgonzo says:

          In the context of FC3, i agree with your statement of either be fun or not good. In its core, FC3 is a fun openworld shooter, which kind of didn’t like to be a shooter “just for fun”, which sours the game.

          However, I believe FPS can tackle serious themes, while still being enjoyable. There are many movies about serious topics, which are enjoyable (and commercially successful) without being just a silly, funny romp. But well, maybe i am just reading too much into your usage of the word “fun”…

    • Snargelfargen says:

      I wouldn’t say “always”, but any game that involves lots of repetition is going to have issues. Especially the satirical ones. It’s like that edgy kid in high school who won’t stop making dead baby jokes. Funny the first dozen times, then it just gets creepy.

  15. LennyLeonardo says:

    Yohalem was way more lucid this time, and he definitely pinned down what I thought was the main thread of criticism in Far Cry 3: the way shooters, and particularly those with skill unlocks and deep progression systems, suck you down their rabbity hole to the detriment of the rest of your life.

    The most pivotal moment in the game, for me, was the part where, basicially, your girlfriend goes “hey, we’re all leaving now, are you coming out or what?” and you say “no, I think I’m going to stay here and kill some more guys.” It’s not the shooting that’s being criticised, so much as the sitting down and doing, to the casual observer, fuck all. Don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve often felt kind of disgusted with myself after a long gaming session, and this is the first game I’ve played that felt it was OK to suggest that I should be.

    • RobF says:

      “Don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve often felt kind of disgusted with myself after a long gaming session,”

      I dunno, playing videogames seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing to me or am I missing the reason why I should be disgusted?

      • Upper Class Twit says:

        I like videogames about as much as anyone else on this site, but personally, I can’t stand to play most videogames for more than four or five hours in one sitting, which, being a teenager who’s really into videogames, is a “long session” for me. I always feel kind of shitty about it, just the feeling that “jeeze, I have literally not moved from this chair in four hours. I really should do something else. And then I’ll go do homework, or read, or go outside, or something. So even as a “gamer” I can definitely see what the OP is talking about.

        My dad always says that videogames are going to be the death of society, and I can kind of see his point. I mean, back in the day, kids needed to use their imagination when they were bored, right? They’d play with toys, or run around outside. They could watch a movie, but it’d only distract them for two hours or something like that. Now, there is never any boredom. A kid could play Call of Duty for hours and hours and be entertained throughout, without doing anything on their part. That seems somewhat unhealthy, but people said the same things about comic books, and movies, and popular literature. So I don’t know. I assume psychologists will have more of this figured out a couple of decades into the future.

        As for Far Cry 3 being a commentary on that, I don’t see it. Really, I didn’t see much of anything in Far Cry 3, other than a mad acid trip that forgot it was supposd to be a mad acid trip about 2/3 of the way in, and instead started “like, satirising violence and shit, man. It’s all about, uhhh, society”.

        • RobF says:

          Anecdotal obviously but I’ve got an 8 year old kid and his whole clique of many all play Minecraft. I don’t mean they play Minecraft all the time* as a videogame, I mean they -play- Minecraft. “It’s your turn to be the creeper, sssssss, I’m digging a tunnel and you can’t come in because SPIDERS” and stuff.

          As well as that, they’re all still functioning perfectly well as kids and discussing Doctor Who, Star Wars – the things *I* had as a kid so I can shut up and not say anything about as well as whatever else exists in their world now, Adventure Time, The Regular Show and stuff seem to be popular choices. And Sonic. Bloody Sonic.

          Videogames fire the imagination and the tales of gaming, just like with TV, movies and books become folk games with rules to be bent, manipulated, argued over, twisted and hit with a stick and a leaf that’s really a pickaxe but shush as far as I can tell from the clattering noise that emits from my garden at times.

          Sure, given half a chance they’ll sit there and play videogames for many hours, same as I did when I was 8. But also, given the choice, they’d sit there and watch a film for hours. They’d sit there and watch TV for hours. They’ll sit there and do whatever for hours. I’m not sure what makes videogames the lesser medium here or a pastime more worthy of shame.

          If you’re thinking “man, I should be doing something else” maybe, just maybe, you probably should be? But that’s a world apart from feeling disgusted, no? Filling in time pleasurably isn’t a sin is it? Why would I feel dirty for enjoying myself? That’s the bit I find strange. It’s hardly hedonistic heights.

          *although if you listened to their chatter, you’d assume they were except it as ever turns out to be kids in entirely different sense of time shocker. 10 minutes a week can easily translate into played forever and ever and ever and ever *pop*

          • Brun says:

            This really. If it weren’t video games, it would be something else that wastes just as much time, for me at least. I was always into video games, but before I got really “hardcore” (early 2000s) I built plastic airplane models. Video games take up just as much time but are not nearly as messy.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      If they think that’s such a problem, why didn’t they make a game that didn’t have progression systems and whatever? They claim to critique gamification while making a game with experience points and skill unlocks. They claim to critique violence while making a violent game. They claim to critique racial stereotypes while reinforcing racial stereotypes. Then they claim to have moved beyond irony. They haven’t moved beyond hypocrisy at any rate.

  16. Lagwolf says:

    Trouble with Spec Ops the line is that is a crap shooter with an interesting if derivative story-line. Farcry 3 on the other hand is a damn good game that has a story-line that is quite compelling but not in your face. I found the fact that your friends in FC3 have no redeeming qualities at all was pretty intriguing… the last decision you take was not exactly hard at all.

  17. Wurstwaffel says:

    These guys need to play some Day Z. Now that’s a shooter where firing your gun is something big and important.

  18. WrenBoy says:

    @Nathan Grayson

    people from violent countries like Africa

    I think you need to correct your pull quote. Africa is not a country and Williams didnt say it was.

    Also pull quotes suck.

    Edit – Cheers buddy

  19. ADarkHorse says:

    WTF FPS, I thought you were British, what in the hell is criticizing?? It’s most definitely criticising and I am VERY disappointed in the readership that this hasn’t been pointed out sooner!

  20. dakl says:

    I couldn’t read anything beyond that treatise on the death of irony.

    • Oozo says:

      Yeah. Especially that “it started with Exit Through The Gift Shop” bit.

      I mean, it’s not as bad as Chris Roberts saying that movies started being “mature” and “human” in the 70s. At least he knows Truffaut. But it still goes to show that, well, he does not seem to be all that well-read, nor culturally even very aware.

      I mean, claiming that Bansky started the death of irony seems almost absurd considering how very much has been written on the topic at least all througout the 90s. As a writer, not being at least remotely aware of stuff like this just puts you at risk of looking a bit off, especially when you’re all excited about the new and revolutionary thing you invented there or decided to be part of.

    • ArthurBarnhouse says:

      Yes, it did seem poorly worded, but the point they were trying to make seems clear. Irony is, in its present iteration, a way to mock the idea of something without having to engage with it at all. And they didn’t want to do that.

      • Oozo says:

        Yeah, and I appreciate that.

        I just wish they would stop trying to legimitize their ideas by putting them into a historical/broader context, especially when they obviously are not that well-informed about that context. Not only does it come off as a bit desperate, but it also triggers all kind of alarm bells in smart-asses like me. (WHY CAN’T THEY STOP RINGING?!).

        If you have good ideas — and that one there might be one –, just say so. And if you you absolutey want to tell me who else did so before, just try being easy on the “started withs”, the “inventends” and go for a more honest “I was inspired by” etc. Them there are treacherous words, they are.

      • bj says:

        Irony is over, guys. Anyway, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, woo!

  21. elgonzo says:

    It is kind of funny to read what Mr. Yohalem says about FC3. But then, he is a professional writer, and certainly able to spin an entertaining story within given constraints, right?

    Aside from being a game, that is what FC3 wanted to tell us so sincerely:

    1) Boy, don’t get all violent. You will only end up with tattoos on your whole body.

    2) English is indeed the No#1 world language. It is spoken everywhere. (Hey, there are probably still some people who didn’t know that fact).

    3) Gunning (virtual) people in red shirts is fun! (Yes, it really is. For some time.)

    4) The Japanese Empire was rotten from within. (So the letters tell.)

    5) What makes a successul import/export economy: Radio towers!

    6) Wallets are made from boars, tigers, and any other animal that doesn’t live where i live. Hence, people like me don’t have wallets and don’t know what to do with all their shiny monies.

    7) You can be Mr. Awesome to a lot of people, even if you are a boring, uninteresting, unsympathetic adolescent boy.

    8) You can have sex, even if you are a boring, uninteresting, unsympathetic adolescent boy (Well, video game sex that is)

    And finally, and most importantly, kids: Beware of sex! Sex will kill you, right after you have done it. Sex is so bad. Even smoking is better, since it will not kill you right now. And they (They!) banned smoking in many places.
    So, for your life’s sake, don’t do this sex thingie…

    And finally finally, a lesson for my British friends: You see, even on those islands people know which is the right side of the road to drive. When do you learn it?

    • Captain Joyless says:

      ok slow up

      #8 is probably true anyway. i mean really though, pretty much everyone gets to have sex at some point.

      • elgonzo says:

        Certainly true.
        I guess, while writing this i was still kind of captured by this touching scene between Charlize Theron and Patton Oswald from the movie Young Adult, which i watched recently.

  22. Jerkzilla says:

    My problem with Spec Ops is that, as far as I can tell, it assumes you like Call of Duty style shooters (or any shooter whose sole raison d’etre is shooting people). I just found it kind of insulting the way it got all up in my face with snarky loading screen comments and whatnot. I mean, I normally steer clear of this kind of game, the kind that treats itself as if it’s realistic but it totally fucking isn’t, but everyone said (truthfully) that it had a good storyline and I gave it a go. The character development in the game is definitely among the best in gaming history, it’s just that it’s practically driven by criticizing a game mechanic I don’t like to begin with.

    • The Random One says:

      Really? My problem with Spec Ops was that if you weren’t already in on the “joke” it would pretty much be meaningless. I didn’t find those loading screen tips insulting, I found them insultingly blatant.

  23. Dewal says:

    The general opinion about FC3 seems to be that there is no message, no depth in the game and that it is only a trip.
    Well, I disagree.

    The whole game is about a white asshole lost on an island slowly becoming the ultime warrior and savior of the poor helpless indigenous people. The more you play, the more your character changes, the more the indigenes accept him and the more he feels different from his helpless asshole friends that don’t even know how to take care of themselves. They even criticise you when they see that you killed a lot people (even if it was the only way to save them) !
    So the more you play, the more you’re feeling like “Yeah, I’m a powerfull warrior !”, “I’m a true Rakyat !”. At some point, your girlfriend ask you to leave with them, and both as the character and the player you say “No”, because you still want to play, you still want to kill and shoot people.

    And after killing more people and becoming even more powerful, they give you the final choice :

    – Will you accept the end of the game, save your friends and leave
    – Are you a true Rakyat, a true warrior ? Will you kill your friends for no reason and stay with the beautiful girl and the indigenes that definitely need you to rule them ?

    Choosing the first answer is like saying “Okay, it was fun but what is the fuck with that. I have no reason to chose to kill my “friends”, I am no Rakyat but just a stranger lost on this Island. I don’t want to have anything else to do with them”.
    The consequence of this answer is the bad guys being punished, and hurrah you and your friends finally left the island !

    But if you choose the second answer, then its like embracing the game. It’s believing in what what thrown at your face since the begning. You are feeling like a powerfull warrior, you like killing people for fun, you don’t care about your useless friends, you want to bang the girl and lead the Rakyat that definitely need you.
    If you chose this one, you get what you’ve asked for. A very crude sex scene and then some blood. The bad news being that it is your blood. Because you are not a Rakyat, because you’re juste a white asshole being manipulated from the begining.
    Damn, boy ! You just cut the throats of the friends you spent the game trying to save ! Did you lost you mind ? Tu t’es trop pris au jeu, littéralement.

    What I stated here is what I felt after finishing the game (and looking at the ending I didn’t choose) and it fits with what Yohalem is saying in this interview.

    Quoting him :
    – “This is how we can get people to do things that they don’t want to do.”
    – “Let’s look at these systems and how they make you feel. Then, at the end of the day, you decide whether you like what this has done to your brain.”

    (I understand both of these sentences as reference to the end of FC3)

    PS : In the end, FC3 is only racist if you don’t understand the endings. Because the morale of the game is more “Get the fuck off this island where you don’t belong” than “Good, meddle with things that don’t concern you and try to lead the poor savages, they definitely won’t kill you”.

    • The Random One says:

      It is entirely possible for a narrative to attempt to lampoon racist tropes and, by failing, fall victim to those very tropes.

      It is entirely possible for two different people to have different enough opinions on something that they disagree as to whether it failed at what it tried to do.

      You are right, but the others are not wrong.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      “The whole game is about a white asshole lost on an island slowly becoming the ultime warrior and savior of the poor helpless indigenous people. ”

      It was better when it was called “White Man’s Burden”, 114 years ago. Except less… IRONIC??

      “But if you choose the second answer, then its like embracing the game. It’s believing in what what thrown at your face since the begning. You are feeling like a powerfull warrior, you like killing people for fun, you don’t care about your useless friends, you want to bang the girl and lead the Rakyat that definitely need you.
      If you chose this one, you get what you’ve asked for. A very crude sex scene and then some blood. The bad news being that it is your blood.”

      Except it’s not. The automatic identification of the player with the player character is probably the most overdetermined aspect of gaming and any game analysis.

    • Ernesto25 says:

      I didn’t even feel like they were my friends i was told they were but none of them seemed to be friendly bar that one guy i had to save you know the ONE i’m talking about.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      Warning: long, SPOILER ridden rant about the final Far Cry 3 decision.

      I felt that this final decision was incredibly contrived and stupid. I mean, they are not very well fleshed out characters and I personally don’t feel very connected to them, but they still are the player character’s friends and you spent almost the whole game trying to rescue them (except for that short part where you could have thought you had everyone and the others are dead). Now Citra does not only want them dead, but wants me to kill them myself? Because for whatever reason I need to cut my ties to the past? That doesn’t make sense, not in-universe and not as a meta-game kind of decision. I really wished instead of just killing her I could have called her out on how insane that request is.

      For me or the player character to do that without being totally out of character would require to already not care at all about his friends and brother, which might be true for the player, but the PC just risked is ass yet again to rescue his brother instead of just leaving him to rot and taking the easy way out by escaping alone. Because of this, it’s an idiotic request in-universe. Now, as a player, I either identify with my character, in which case I would probably take the in-character decision of saving my friends, or I don’t identify with him, in which case I probably wouldn’t put much weight into the decision either way, which would in turn mean that it wouldn’t have much effect on me either way.

      One of the problems is, that at a meta-level, I know that it’s the ending to the game either way. It’s not like I have the choice of leaving with my friends or continuing to be The Mighty Warrior for another 10 hours of story. IMHO it would have worked better, and more accurately expressed what they allegedly were getting at with the game, if that point occured somewhere in the middle. Save all your friends and kill Vaas as the climax, return to camp. Now you can either take your friends and go home, leading to the credits, OR you can now say “fuck that, being an island warrior is too much fun!”, go to the other island and go after Hoyt, but that would leave players potentially not seeing half of the game so that won’t be done.
      That would still leave you with that stupid decision to kill the friends that you just worked your ass of saving (even if you took your time and had fun on the island in the meantime), so we might want to replace that with the good old “save one or the other” kind of situation or, even simpler, just deciding whether to get on the boat with them or just stay. Both would make a lot more sense, which in turn would make the decision have a much better effect on the player – especially if over time they’d rub it in your face one subtle way or another, should you choose to stay.

      OR they could have left you in drug-o-vision, leaving it for the player to figure out from clues that they are actually about to kill their friends. Or give us a somewhat measured option, like responding “hey, this life is fun and all and I’d like to stay here, but I have no reason to kill my friends. Seeing as I’m apparently the next big ham around here, why don’t you all do me a favour and cut them loose, let them go on their boat and I’ll just stay?”. Thinking about it now, I don’t even know why Citra captured his friends. Chances were that the PC (forgot the name) would stay there anyway. Everyone else would be gone and Citra would have PC alone without the need for capturing them and hoping that the PC has snapped enough that he will suddenly kill them. Seriously, what did she expect? He was on a power trip maybe, but not emotionally dead. She would have much better chances of convincing him if she simply flirted with and promised him all the things she does anyway and told him to stay there instead of going home with his friends.
      She’d also have better chances if she’d just had the others killed (or leaving) without him knowing. But for no apparent reason it has to be the PC himself who murders them. What’s that about? Commitment? Seeing as she’s about to kill him anyway after milking his little player, the only commitment of his that matters is his commitment to boning. Hell, it wouldn’t even matter if his friends was still alive or on the island. After he’s dealt with Hoyt, grab him, f*** him, stab him. Maybe his friends figured he chose the tribe over them and leave, or if they are worried about them coming back with the army or something, they can just kill them anyway before they leave. Citra forcing him to kill them is pretty much the only way she can get him to not stay and screw her.

      But the way this is implemented, the only effect it had on me was asking “why would I or the PC do that without even questioning?”.

      /Rant off.

      TL;DR: IMHO, the final decision felt much too needless, contrived and tacked on at last minute to have any effect or message.

    • elgonzo says:


      while i certainly share your sentiment, i don’t agree with your argument.

      The game is not about the (changing) relationship with your friends. That is just covered briefly in cinematics. The actual game is about saving them from the bad guys, and getting revenge. That is what the motivation of your actions in the game are.

      The main character becoming violent, even blood-thirsty is not a concern for the game. Yeah, there are those friends of you, which don’t like what you become, but you know, otherwise it’s fine, no consequences, no damage, just go on. See, i don’t demand the game to be concerned, but Mr. Y. seems to pretend that it is a big deal for the game.

      The binary choice at the end of the game, whether to kill your (ex-)girlfriend to get the promised sex, or not, well, it certainly conveys a moral message.

      For you the game was a about a boy developing into a bloody monster, etc.
      For me, i could see tiny bits of such in few cinematic sequences, and an attempted moral sledgehammer in the crude end scenes. But honestly, i found the game itself mostly devoid of these aspects…

      As for the quotes from Mr. Y., they are certainly a highlight. I am just not sure if he tried to be funny when saying stuff like “This is how we can get people to do things that they don’t want to do.”, or if he is just desperately making stuff up from thin air. Certainly, most players will select both choices to see both endings. It has nothing to do whatsoever with moral integrity or the ethical standards of any player — you just want to see what happens next — after all, it’s just a game and you don’t go to kill your wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend in reality just to see the next cut scene, don’t you?

      I admit, my comment might have been a pile of snark through and through. But if Mr. Y. comes and tells one about the Tree, i just can’t take that seriously…

  24. bhlaab says:

    Yohalem; RE: namedropping Truffaut: HOW DARE YOU

    • Captain Joyless says:


      the man takes intro to film and thinks he knows whats up

      (full disclosure: i also took intro to film)

  25. bhlaab says:

    Video games are awful.

    • The Random One says:

      Have hope, they’ve just realized that. And then gone no further, but hey!

  26. Universal Quitter says:

    Maybe I’m being cynical, but this reminds me of George Lucas talking about his stylistic decisions and artistic vision instead of just admitting the Phantom Menace fucking sucked. Not that far cry 3 wasn’t fun. I just don’t buy after-the-fact artistic mission statements.

    God forbid anyone admit a modicum of personal responsibility in the corporate world. Apparently, the universe would crack in two, and dolphins would fly through the air, shitting on everything.

  27. Captain Joyless says:

    “The whole thing was inspired by this idea of, can you make a game that is a warning label about games? Can you do it without being an ironic satire? Because for me, irony is finished, for now.”

    and i stopped reading. because you know what? everyone else has been “finished” with irony (ie, relegated it to its appropriate corner of literary exposition) for about 3 years now. oh, right, the length of time it took you guys to make far cry 3. fancy that: a videogame cannot be a culturally apropos artifact because it takes too fucking long to make, particularly when the thing its trying to comment on was never more than a meme. “irony” was never anything to talk about; it was merely the label ascribed by the threatened to things that were objectively cooler than they were (see eg christy wampole at the ny shitty times).

    so when a video game writer is like “omg irony is sooooo finished” it makes me just think he is a total fucking hack with no self-awareness whose work is probably garbage – maybe it’s not, but i have less observably moronic writers to patronize in the mean time. what’s next, in 5 years he tells us that “sincerity is so over, err, i mean, i’m being SOOOO sincere with this game”? would that make sense? no, it wouldn’t.

    you know what? fuck this whole “anti-irony” insecure bullshit. i’m going to get up tomorrow and get a southern buttermilk biscuit in the middle of the “hipster”neighborhood in chicago (logan square; admittedly, pilsen might be more “hipster”) and you know what? it’s fucking good. it’s made by a guy who is good at what he does and who likes biscuit and whose grandmother gave him the recipe. he’s a “hipster” but he knows what hes doing and he’s good at it. i don’t need these absurd digs at “irony” by people who have no fucking idea what they’re criticizing and assume that anyone who’s different than they are must be being “ironic” simply because they don’t make the same choices they do.


    in short: if you raise the topic of irony unprompted, you are insecure unoriginal malcreator


    • Arglebargle says:

      I like the buttermilk biscuit part…..

    • elgonzo says:

      Yes, you can make a sincere warning label about games in the form of a game. It would be like trying to sell as many cigarettes as possible with a sticker on them that says smoking will kill your unborn child. You know how sincere that is.

      Forgive my failed attempted in irony. Fortunately, the biscuits made me hungry. So i shut up now and go eat something.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        No way bro you TOTALLY MISSED IT. Putting a warning label ON a cigarette pack is not the same thing as making a cigarette in the form of a warning label. For the cigarette analogy to work, you’d need a cigarette that, as you smoked it, made you realize you were going to kill your unborn child. Like, the smoke had a particular aroma of neonatal death.

        What you’re talking about is just putting a warning label on a game box. Not making the game be the warning label.

  28. Captain Joyless says:

    “RPS: Hm. You both started with straightforward shooters, but I think you approached the critique from completely opposite angles.”

    Tact props to Grayson here. I can’t see inside his head, but I read the above as:

    “RPS: Hm. So you both made a videogame, but one of you is a moron and the other actually has a cogent critique of the genre you’re working in.”

  29. Radiant says:

    “Because for me, irony is finished, for now.”


  30. baltasaronmeth says:

    Too bad. Spec Ops used to be somewhat open, somewhat squad-centric, demanding some tactics, leaving the player in an area that has to be explored and then conquered. This new game with the same name is a long tunnel with screens as walls and a cart, driving through a cinema with one guy sitting in the cart, pointing at the screens, his fingers in a pistol shape, yelling “BANG!”. After the ride, he is told, that he is supposed to feel bad now, because he virtually impersonated the bad guys on the screen and is now required to feel the weight of the consequences in order to be in consensus with society. On screen: Poor guy GI Joe learns, that the entire following orders and killing people thing might be the exact opposite of what a concious being should do.

    While I fully support the idea of displaying violence as something rather unpleasant, I am shocked by the fact, that there are so many people, who seem to think that the representation in Spec Ops is something new or revolutionary and I am shocked, that it seems to be such a controversial thought for some. It’s not new. It has been the theme of many movies over the years. Now we are quick in our judgement, claiming, that Spec Ops is not a movie but a game. This might be true for some, but I do not feel connected to the story, by yelling “BANG!” at the screen and I do not develop empathy for the characters by taking a break from a movie every 3 minutes to pop some targets at the shooting range across the street. The story does not progress because of my actions. In some ways Spec Ops is not that different from shooters from the 8 and 16 bit era, letting the player advance through the level and tell the story in brief screens full of text between missions.

    I really wonder, if the hype about that game would have been there in the first place, if the developers didn’t have made such a big fuzz about how deep their personal rabbit holes go. I suspect this to be great PR for an at best mediocre game.

    • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

      Far Cry 2 did the theme of dropping a morally grey, but well-meaning character in a psychotic environment way better, in my opinion. It didn’t shove idiotic “oh my god how GAMER and AMERICAN” crap at you.

      I actually kinda hope someone revisits the “war-torn Africa” thing, the original concept of an actual open-world with your way of pursuing the Jackal was a great idea.

  31. Ernesto25 says:

    Feel i should give spec ops a go but the setting etc turns me off but the word of mouth has me intrigues. I feel as much as i like bio shock infinite i felt half way though i was doing too much shooting and was worn down by the amount of shooting. i liked the earlier parts of the game which addressed the shooting and shown the city for what it was but due to the plot etc it seems the message gets lost as i played more. Still liked it but it felt flawed. this is the same with FC3 i disagree that the guy i play is an asshole he seemed pretty shocked and confused at the start his brother seems the usually fps protagonist type. MILD SPOILER i also wasn’t sure what the German guy was meant to represent if anything.END SPOILER The prior interview with the FC3 writer made me raise my eyebrow seen as he was saying “shittiy skinning animation? Yeha we totally meant that to represent X”

  32. HisDivineOrder says:

    I think the penultimate version of satire for the FPS genre was done completely and perfectly by Bulletstorm. That game did it all. It did it all with aplomb. There really is nothing else left to do in that regard because it completely and utterly embodied that concept.

    As for the “straight-faced” satire, I think Spec Ops: The Line does that well. I think Far Cry 3 is more of a “pile on” after effect. It’s like they did the “creepy island makes you creepy” (or perhaps the, “If you look into Hell, Hell looks back into you”) storyline that’s really rather basic and then only near the end, they realized. “Hey. This reads like a commentary on the modern shooter.” So they tweaked it a couple of times and bam. There it is.

    Which I don’t take to be literary genius or real effort. Just accidental proximity.

  33. Baal_Sagoth says:

    Good on RPS for giving this interesting topic more room. I quite enjoyed some of the insight in the interview. Mr. Yohalem really irritates me though (here and in the article from last year as well). I mean, I just don’t enjoy his writing and smug take on things but that’s obviously merely my opinion, so whatever. However, I really fail to understand where FC3 supposedly displays all these satiric and critical thoughts in the game. Or how it’s supposed to be a deviation from “ironically” distancing oneself from trashy content.
    I can see gamers ignoring its self-indulgent, rambling plot for the sake of fun and vapid gameplay, I can even see someone liking that stuff because it’s so nonsensical and filled with stereotypes (in the same way I personally enjoy B-grade horror movies). But I really don’t see how the game can be interpreted as an unironic, sincere critique of videogames and escapism while indulging in every fucking tired cliché – from dumb drug episodes and ridiculously sadistic villains to first person sex scenes with the badass chick. All that in a generic open world game that is designed to suck you in for dozens of hours of repetitive gameplay. And I’m supposed to not hold that “at arm’s length” and laugh at it? That, to me, seems like the definition of making a generic game ironically to mock these stereotypes (although I personally don’t think even that works too well) instead of just, crazy thought I know, attempting to make a unique and genuinely good game.

  34. drvoke says:

    Hi. I was born, grew up, and spent 90% of my life living in New Mexico, and I’m now super curious what Jeffrey Yohalem’s connection to the state is. Gambling is a huge problem, but it’s not the only state with casinos… Can someone put me out of my misery?

  35. Orogenesis says:

    This comment thread has increased my chances of picking up both Kane & Lynch games considerably.

  36. Orogenesis says:

    In regards to the article, Mr. Yohalem sounds pretty obnoxious and seems to exude a lowest common denominator intellectualism.
    He thinks he’s hip, with it, smart, ironic AND deep, but in reality he’s just a simpleton isn’t he?

    I mean that’s what came across in the article from last year discussing Far Cry’s plot, as it did in this piece, starkly contrasted with Williams more serious and insightful musings.

    I don’t know perhaps I’m being overly critical, but it seems even our beloved RPS writers felt the same vibes in their various pieces on the man.

  37. A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

    Does anyone remember Killswitch? It was the third-person generic cover shooter that started Gears of War (Winback predated Killswitch, but no one remembers that game at all, either), and it had an undertone of “the player is an asshole” – the player character was some shadowy paramilitary goon remotely controlling a soldier to start civil wars, so the corporation they’re working for can profit off the warfare.

    About halfway through, the player character (and by extent, the player) get zapped by a good guy, who proceeds to hijack the meat puppet and goes to town on the corporation. Somehow, that manages to be a bit more subtle than Spec Ops.

    Hotline Miami managed to be less subtle and stupid, too, and that insults the player at the end, as well.

    I’m not saying that Spec Ops shouldn’t be silenced and that it doesn’t have a point because it was about as subtle as a MIRV, but it was a pretty hamhanded, hypocritical thing that just yelled insults at the player, and people only gobbled it up because DEEP and also Cowadoody ate their kids and raped their wife. It strikes me as hypocritical that fans of 90s-era blast-’em-ups fellate Spec Ops because it’s a mockery of MMSes, when it’s an indictment of violence in all video games..

    If anything, if you want a real deconstruction of military FPS, go play ArmA or the old Rainbow Six games.

    (Off-topic, but I actually would like to see a mod for ArmA that reproduced all the Modern Warfare/Black Ops campaigns, just so I can really tear my hair out.)

  38. A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

    Also, I wonder what happened to Five Days in Fallujah. That was supposed to have a really strong survival horror aspect to it…